Group 1: Toto Wolff, Frederic Vasseur and Mario Isola.
Mario, can we start with you, because we've seen some new tyre constructions introduced at this race. How were they performing in FP1? And, tell us what's new as well?
Mario Isola: What is new is just the material that we wanted to introduce in 2024 but looking at the performance of the cars, we decided to anticipate it and FP1 was in-line with our expectations - don't forget they already tested the tyres in Barcelona and the feedback was good. When I say good, I mean they didn't feel any difference, compared to the previous construction. And obviously FP2 is the more representative session for us. So, I want to wait for FP2 to better understand - but I'm not expecting anything strange, compared to the previous construction.
Now, some drivers have said that these tyres are heavier than expected - and I'm quoting some of them there - what was expected and what is your response to that?
MI: Yes. They are heavier. One set is 400g heavier than the previous ones, so I believe it is not making a big difference. Obviously we already informed the FIA some time ago on the new weight. It was decided to keep the same minimum weight for the cars. That's not our decision: we just told them what is the difference in average weight. The tyres can be slightly different, because the weight, we have a tolerance of 100g so clearly if you have all the tyres at the limit on weight: they can be 600g heavier, or 650g, but other sets are slightly lighter. So, it's always like this. It was always like this in the past, it's also like this now.
While we're talking 2024-spec, can we throw it forward to next week where there is the final test of the tyres without tyre blankets.
MI: We have Tuesday/Wednesday. It's not the final test because we have other tests planned for the rest of the season - but after this test the F1 Commission is going to decide if, for 2024, we ban the blankets or not. What we are doing is that, after the test, we are doing a report: an executive summary for team principals so they don't have to read 40 or 50 pages - I hope you are happy, just three pages with a summary, you're welcome! - with a summary of the test. Obviously we will also supply all the data to the tyre expert of the team. So it's not just the summary for them. And then I hope they are going to decide based on the data. If we want to continue for another year with blankets, we will do that.
What is the data telling you Mario? Do you think Formula 1 is ready?
MI: It depends on what you mean with 'ready'. The new tyres, or the tyres that work without blankets are different than current tyres. So you cannot expect that you have a warm-up phase that is exactly the same as the warm-up phase of the current tyres that are heated at 70 degrees C. We didn't have the possibility to test the tyres in all of the conditions - because we don't have cold conditions at the moment, and when we tested in cold conditions - I remember at one test with Mercedes, for example, in Paul Ricard - it was at the beginning of the season with the compounds that are not the final version of the compounds. So we were in the early stages of the development. So, the point is that we have to accept that, when tyres are running without blankets, they are different. We need to understand which is the impact on race strategies - because obviously we don't want the show to be damaged by the new situation - but the direction that we agreed with all the F1 stakeholders is to reduce the impact on the environment and make the sport more sustainable, and this is what we are doing.
Mario, can we bring in Fred and Toto on this topic. So, it's almost time to make this decision about tyre blankets for 2024. Fred, let's start with you, what are your thoughts?
Frederic Vasseur: As Mario said, it's a bit too early because we didn't receive the report - but pretty in-line with Mario, I think that in the normal circumstances that we did the test - I think it was Bahrain - and it went pretty well. But the concern is not this one: the concern is that when we go on the low track in energy, and you will have cold conditions, in the extreme conditions - for example, Las Vegas, if you go there, you race at night and it's 4 degrees C, what could be the outcome of this? I think on 95 per cent of the conditions, it will be OK and they are doing a good job and honestly I think a couple of teams did the test and it went pretty well - but we are not able to anticipate what could be the situation in the extreme conditions - and this we have to wait for the report from Mr Pirelli.
Toto, your thoughts please.
Toto Wolff: I would have said exactly what Fred said.
Now, Toto, can I stick with you then. Let's talk about this weekend, first of all. You've got the new front wing, we've just had a practice session, what can you tell us?
TW: It was a valuable session because it was not only the front wing, we tested a few aero parts and then obviously seeing how the new tyres performed and generally we got the programme done. We didn't run the Soft tyre, so it's difficult to judge where we would have ended-up - but it's not important. That was not our aim. It was really to see whether we can collect some data on the interesting bits. So that was good. Generally, I'm happy with FP1.
After what you called a bruising experience in Austria last weekend, do you think Mercedes can bounce back here?
TW: I'm of the firm belief that we have everything that's needed to bounce back. We had a bad weekend and these cars are not only fast but for everyone are unpredictable. We've seen other teams - be it Ferrari or Aston Martin - also having these outliers, even within Red Bull, Checo has been in and out. So yeah, we very much hope that this was a track that was an outlier for us - but you know, it's not like we're going here with super-high expectations and it's all full of roses. It's not. We still need to improve the car.
Hollywood is in town this weekend Toto and, of course, Mercedes has been heavily involved in the adaptation of the cars that they're using at Apex Grand Prix. How excited are you to see the production process in action?
TW: Yeah, we've been involved pretty early and I think when we had the first discussions, we sent Brad to a driving school in France, going through the Formula cars from Formula 4 all the way up - and we tried to be helpful with the narrative. Lewis is an executive producer, so he wanted to make sure when the movie comes out, it's as realistic as possible. And we had a few laughs - but I think it's a very good narrative, and the effort they've put in, we helped them - it was Fred's idea, I think - to use an F2 car and build the bodywork around it that looks like an F1 car. And then the garages and the pit wall, all of it, we tried to be helpful and give them the designs so they could be as realistic as possible. And then you see now, that is such an effort. I spoke to the director a few weeks ago and said: "where are you?" expecting him to tell me he's in Hollywood - but he said: "I'm in my apartment in Brackley," so it's not all great with being a movie director. But yeah, massive, when you go in the garage and the whole set-up they have behind it, really unbelievable.
Fred, coming to you, so tell us about your involvement. Was it your idea to adapt an F2 car?
FV: We had some discussion a couple of months ago, perhaps a bit more than one year, and I'm not sure for the fans it's a big difference. I think the job done on the car is amazing, and I'm not an expert of all these things but when you go into the garage, you have the feeling that it's a proper F1 team, and even better than some teams. It's amazing what they did and I hope that it will be at the level expected, because it would be a huge push for the F1.
Let's talk about Ferrari now. Your race pace has been good at both of the last two races, that's pre- and post- the upgrade. So, do you feel that you're now on top of the tyre degradation issues that you've had in the past?
FV: No, I think it's... you have to do a reset every single weekend. As Toto said before, that we are in a group from P2 to P10, that you can move from one session to the other one, from the top to the bottom and you don't have to come to the next event full of conviction. But I think the most important is to have an open mind and to continue to push - but nothing is done and I hope that it will stay like this until the end of the season.
What did the upgrades give you in Austria?
...in terms of performance on the track, Fred?
FV: I will provide the testimonial later on. No, but you know we were looking for more consistency and drivability from the car, from the beginning of the season. And I think we did a decent step forward. Barcelona first one, but Barcelona was quite difficult and Montreal went much better for us. And then we did another step in Austria. We are going on this direction, we are focused on this and we did the two decent steps. But it's not the end, that we have still 12 or 13 races to go, and it will be a long fight. It means that we don't have to imagine that it's done, that the job is done and we will be in an easy situation until the end, that it would be each weekend depending of the track layout, the tarmac, the weather condition. It will be a full reset and it's so tight that for one-tenth or two-tenths, you can move from the top to the bottom.
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